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Over and out

9 Dec

The TERRA broadcast went out on Resonance FM this past Monday, a copy of which will be made available and posted here shortly. The hour-long broadcast went quickly, so in my final post on TERRA and as writer in residence, I wanted to draw out some of those things we ran out of time to discuss.

Following a discussion around the exhibition itself, we included several readings – from Gregory Bateson’s address to the 1967 Dialectics of Liberation Congress, in which he summarises his view of the ecosystem and human societies running in analogous tending-towards-balance fashions; from Robert Smithson‘s essay ‘A Sedimentation of the Mind,” in which he discusses ‘geologic time'; from Jorge Luis Borges‘ short story ‘The Garden of the Forking Paths‘, which provided the inspiration towards Deleuze and Guattari’s use of the rhizome; a reading from the introduction to Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus, in which they list the principles of the rhizome (“There is always something geneological about a tree. It is not a method for the people.”).

This was interspersed with the sounds of Tim Hecker‘s Music for Tundra, alva noto, and from Bjork’s Homogenic album which involved sampling volcanic sounds for the production of the music.

With a few minutes left in the broadcast, we had a brief discussion of the ideas of Mexican thinker and filmmaker Manuel de Landa, who draws on Deleuze’s notions of machines to point out our distinctions between the organic and the inorganic; eg things like hurricanes are essentially an engine that occurs in nature, and these combinations occur in a non-linear fashion. There had been a few artists that I wanted to discuss on the show, to widen out the approaches set in TERRA, and this touched on the work of Carsten Nicolai, aka alva noto, in how his music and visuals look at patterns and systems, such as the images produced by cymatics – but in his work it appears more linear, or rather releasing to a process that doesn’t sound as nonlinear or random as de Landa makes it sound. Nicolai’s work is very much a cross over between art and science, that has a sense of finding the organic within the digital.

The people we didn’t get a chance to mention though, included artists like Rivane Neuenschwander, a Brazilian artist who employs a certain kind of chance poetry that doesn’t explicitly take on our relationship to nature, but maybe more takes it for granted, re-shapes it and reconstructs it and allows us to re-examine it that way. Several works enact their own form of continental drift, from water-filled bowl set afloat in a giant bowl of water, to styrofoam balls held in a tranluscent cieling that through random fans blowing come to form their own islands and landscapes. Her perspective is one like Smithson’s geologic time, observed at a minute level.

Another project was London-based artists Melanie Jackson‘s ‘Urpflanze‘ project of ‘abstract gardening,’ taking off from Goethe’s imaginary plant that carries with in it all imaginary future plants to present an array of sculptures and drawings where the gallery is a sort of greenhouse-of-horrors, bacteria-like seeds propped up all around the room.

Irish artist Karl Burke works with sculpture, photography and sound, but was an example for me that kept popping up as his work very much feels like a present-day land art re-placed in the gallery space, as if pointing to something forgotten, left behind, but still resonating. His work seems reliant on natural spaces, drawing in forests with tape and wood then photographing it, but doesn’t make any bones about transferring that action to an art space – both the gallery and the forest become simply spaces we move within equally. When I proposed the radio program to him, he suggested playing this.

These are simply a few other practices I wanted to direct people towards, other tangents and angles on the TERRA ground. The exhibition will tour to the Grizedale forest centre in January 2012, which will undoubtedly change many of the sensibilities, weight and thrust of the works in the TERRA show, and I hope many of you get a chance to see it at both venues.

Thanks to those who have helped out, read and taken part in my posts the past few months, and thanks to the Jerwood team for this platform and all their kind support!

All the best – Chris Fite-Wassilak

Now’s the Time

29 Nov

How do we experience and understand duration? We’ve made a habit of cataloguing the ephemera of our predecessors, and gesticulated on what we image the origins of the planet to be. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the clock analogy, that if the earth was on a 12 hour clock, with the big bang at midnight, we humans would only just begin to be appearing less than a second before noon.

A few interesting point were raised at the discussion held at the Jerwood Space last night, in a discussion between Joy Sleeman, curators Hayley Skipper and Anthony Mottershead, and TERRA artists Edwina Fitzpatrick and Anne-Mie Mellis. Firstly was Sleeman’s point about how we view things within our own lifetime- speaking of how from our current perspective we understand the artists of the 60s like Smithson who adopted the title of ‘earthworks’. “The current re-writing of land art as a sort of proto-ecological art is a bit of a mis-reading,” Sleeman said before holding up the examples of two books held dear to the environmental movement – Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) and Paul Shepherd’s Man in the Landscape (1967).  She pointed out that it’s “easy to remember the discussion around the problem rather than the solutions,” reading each of the author’s suggestions on how to solve the onsetting ecological crisis: for Carson, she promotes bioengineering; for Shepherd, he encourages hunting, ‘killing animals for their own good, and ours.” “Maybe,” as Sleeman said, “we’d have different thoughts about this now.”

The works in TERRA each take a different approach to time – for the Owl Project, it is using wood that has taken years to grow, but then using that towards a more immediate release and impact of the sounds made by the lathe. For Melis, it is the relatively quick generational changes of petunias, while in Anderson’s work it is the thousands of year process that produces coal.

One thing Skipper pointed out in an interview I conducted with her in preparation for the program we’re airing on Resonance FM next week (8pm on the 5th December), in her work in Grizedale Forest with the Forestry Commission: in forestry they think in terms of generations, which is 50 years, for any changes to take effect. That at least changes over within a human lifetime before stretching beyond it. The discussion last night highlighted Sleeman’s use of the notion of the Anthropocene in her essay for the Modern British Sculpture catalogue and her TERRA essay – the term designating that now human’s effect on the planet will register on geological record. As Sleeman notes in her writing on TERRA, Jerram’s Hiroshima piece is the smallest work in the show, but also the event that might mark the beginning of the Anthropocene era.

Recently, in light of the show I’ve been re-reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos (1985), which is set in the year 1,001,985. The narrator has watched over humanity’s evolution following a financial disaster and a biological epidemic that has rendered most of humanity sterile in 1986. Taking Darwin’s theories to a pointedly ridiculous extreme, a handful of shipwrecked people on the island of Galapagos become the only people to carry on the species, eventually evolving in to furry, primarily aquatic beings. What the narrator singles out as the 20th century human’s evolutionary disadvantage is: their big brains. Our descendants have small, sleek skulls, and don’t waste any time on silly doubts.

It’s a hyperbolic example, but the point is the same; the distance and perspective from our own, immediate present can give a different angle on events, objects, and how we understand experience. One audience member pointed to Stonehenge and pre-historical chalk drawings, asking whether these could in the present also be considered land art. The same drawn out perspective in Vonnegut is a similar root for the discussion of Actor Network Theory and ‘object-oriented thinking’ that was brought up last night, looking at the human as just another factor within an entire range of elements, and just another part of the ecosystem. To me, the shift away from not idealizing the landscape – and in that same move keeping it as a comfortable ‘other’- is necessary, to temper the romanticism of the eco movements of the 60s; but I’d also be weary of the thinking that effectively excuses human behavior of the past century as simply the way our species operates. “Why are we not ‘natural’?” Fitzpatrick asked last night. Give me a few thousand years and I’ll get back to you.

TERRA: list of materials

24 Nov

coal dust



gypsum (aka Plaster of Paris)


perfume (alcohol & water)

plastic (perspex)

resin (epoxy)

wood (beech, elm, oak)

To take an almost economic perspective on the Terra exhibition, I thought it’d be good to break it down to its constituent parts and start from there. Or maybe to just take the environmental lean of the show and follow that through a bit more to look at how materials are used in the arts. The art world is blatantly not an energy or carbon efficient one; things are called upon often for a once-off use, usually in pressured situations where the ability to use materials to their optimum long-term potential and to dispose of the by-products is hampered or jettisoned entirely. It’s not just that arts events such as exhibitions and art fairs generate a large amount of waste – from a Royal Parks report, the wastage from the 2005 Frieze Art Fair came to 21.91 tonnes. I wonder if that includes the skips of plasterboard, planks of wood and mdf, the temporary walls, little shelves, and plinths that are made for the event then cast aside. But on top of that is the attitude that supports that wastage, that everything must be at hand in order to be used, that a gallery could never run an environmentally friendly or sustainable business because that would also have to extend to dictating what materials the artists worked with.

The artists in TERRA clearly pick their materials carefully, though it’s hard to avoid plastics – in a thousand years’ time, the perspex and projector parts will still be sitting around, and the manufacture of acrylic plastics has its own toxic byproducts. In the wider realm of artistic production, my favorite is the never-ending widespread use of MDF. Yes, Medium Density Fibreboard is cheap. But it also is made with formaldehyde resins that are released from the wood, and have been listed for over twenty years as a ‘probable human carcinogen’. Another is books. The feel is great, and something like the TERRA booklet is a well designed object in itself, but again paper production carries with it a chemical price. A choice exchange I witnessed earlier this year followed a presentation by walking artist Hamish Fulton. He set up a economics around his work, that was about reducing the weight and impact of art making, the walking then being the lightest. He acknowledged, “Really, I’m a tourist and an artist. I have a giant ecological footprint.” Lawrence Weiner, sitting in the audience, raised a hand and took issue with Fulton’s documentation of the ‘light’ walks, in his countless publications. “The minute you make a book, it’s the worst thing you can do. I don’t see why the walk, the research, saves it from any other art.”

“It doesn’t Lawrence…it’s a matter of degree.”

branching out

18 Nov

In the broad ecosystem of thought that surrounds the Terra show, I’ve found myself turning to a few odd corners. One has been re-reading some of the old Swamp Thing comic books, when in 83-87 Alan Moore had re-cast the character from a gothic horror genre to something more ecologically minded – a ‘superhero’ who was in touch with nature.

artwork: Jim Veitch

Now, before I lose some (most?) of you here, it’s more the hybrid of human and plant that interests me here, much in the same way the works in Terra have taken on a straddling position of occupying the gallery with manipulated, recorded and re-presented aspects drawn from a more natural setting. The Swamp Thing character comes from a heritage of muck-beasts in pulp literature, maybe starting with Theodore Sturgeon‘s 1940 short story “It”, through to ‘The Heap’, ‘The Man-Thing’, and then the equally non-descript name of ‘Swamp Thing.’ Moore’s run on the narrative saw him turning it to a more metaphysical bent, to make a sort of first pop eco-warrior, and as a place to question how we relate to vegetation as a metonymy for nature and the non-human. He does take the chance to make a few broad swipes – calling humans ‘meat’ and ‘steak.’ One particular story line, ‘Earth to Earth’ sees him overgrowing the city as a new forest, which some people-only a few- embrace as a new, ideal way of life. Most people try to stamp it out. Reading it now, it does feel idealistic, binary in its separations. But at the same time, the development of urban thought from people like the Situationists has led to the treatment and passive acceptance of the city as a jungle in and of itself.

This might connect interestingly to another, more obvious reference point for this show in the artwork and writings of Robert Smithson. His earthworks are a touchstone for works like Anne-Mie Melis’s and Jonathan Anderson’s in the TERRA show, but I’m also interested in the way that Smithson categorized and examined place in his writing. Specifically, his look at ‘sites and settings;’ in a 1968 untitled piece of writing with the subtitle ‘Site Data’, he differentiates between different types of locations, from the urban apartment to the industrial site. He has this to say about the art gallery and the art museum:

The art gallery (since the late 50s) – Conforms to the archetypal site of tragic theatre in most cases. The inner Chamber = Salesroom. Antechamber = Secretary’s Office. Exterior Space = Exhibition space. Unconscious hierarchical room configuration.

The art museum (modern) – Tourist attraction. Some curators do public stunts and promote art through mass-media. Improves the mind of the many, ruins the mind of the few. Oversized paintings and oversized sculptures cause interesting dislocations in scale, thus changing the interior meaning of the museum. The museum replaces the church.

In another short piece from the same year, ‘A Provisional Theory of Non-Sites,’ Smithson describes his work ‘The Non-Site (and indoor earthwork)’, what was the first in a series of works with the title of Nonsites.

Robert Smithson, A Non-Site (indoor earthwork), 1968, blue painted aluminum with sand

As the Jerwood, somewhere between the gallery and the museum, for the site of TERRA, which is a series of works which- like Smithson’s Pine Barren Plains piece above- are based on external places, I think it’s worth thinking of the show in this lineage of the non-site. Transposing the subterranean materials of coal to a more celestial configuration, replicating the scent of the forest in different seasons, turning tectonic movements into sculptural forms, the works in TERRA I would say are distinctly urban, requiring and working from that perspective and distance from the forest floor. But in their referencing, looking and casting to these other places, are perhaps instilling a perspective different from the ‘parkours’ appropriation of the city-as-nature view that has been unconsciously adopted. The non-site is a deliberate displacement, whose lack and obvious disguise and non-belonging make it a thorn to catch on and keep the problems of moving between the human, the non-human and their forms of mutual manipulation and inter-relationships incessantly open.

Terra has landed

10 Nov

The new TERRA show just opened at the Jerwood Space brings together five sets of sculpture, of “artists considering the relationship between their practice and the environment outside of the white–walled space,” curated by Haley Skipper and Anthony Mottershead of the Forestry Commission England at Grizedale Forest and its sculpture park.

The world is a big place. And while humans have managed to colonize the planet pretty well, it’s only more recently (ie less than a century) that we’ve started to look around a bit more and ask what we’ve been doing with our planet and if we can keep on doing it. Humankind have been pretty keen to distinguish themselves from the rest of the organisms on the planet, and since the Industrial Revolution the separation of human from ‘nature’ has been increasingly understood as a dichotomy. Nowadays, city-bound people plan their ‘getaway to the country’ months in advance.

So to say ‘Nature’ is a theme here is maybe a red herring, and also pretty broad and spring-loaded territory. But it is still part of the territory defining the show. TERRA steps directly into the murky areas of the questions raised by calling on ‘the natural world’ with a range of approaches, from the simulation, manipulation and magnification of what we might see or try to experience as nature.

Looking to nature usually carries with it the accusation of Romanticism, the return to nature spurred on by the rise of industry, or in more modern parlance a utopian idealism. We might be at some sort of turning point in how we conceive of the debate though. Shaping alot of the thinking of the past decades have been thinkers like Buckminster Fuller or Gregory Bateson, who looked to nature as a sort of benign governing force upon which to model our own actions. While their voices have been necessary mediators of attempts to curb our remarkable use of this planets resources, recently their views have also been subjected to criticism weary of their idealisations of the mechanisms behind their understandings of the natural world – see, for a bombastic example, the 2nd episode of Adam Curtis’s recent BBC subjective documentary All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace.

In contemporary art, there have been a few recent examples to try and explore this territory, such as the Barbican’s 2009 Radical Nature exhibition (and a review of the show here), or this year on a smaller scale the ‘Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow‘ group show (and my own review here). But on a more long-term basis, alongside those efforts in Grizedale, are other organisations, such as the garden and contemporary art centre Instituto Inhotim (see also Dan Fox’s view on the place here), or the residency program and efforts of Campo Adentro (‘Inland’) in Spain. These efforts necessarily have to tackle head on the tangle of a contemporary pastoralism, mediating realism, criticality and the very real ghosts of what’s conceived of as a ‘pleasant’ countryside. These efforts try to ask in new ways how we understand ourselves in relation to the world around us, and whether that world can be considered ‘natural’, how deep the oppositions might go.

Joy Sleeman’s essay accompanying TERRA at one point quotes Maurice Merleau-Ponty, saying, “all is fabricated and all is natural with man.” I would think this would mean, for Ponty, that in our apperception of the world around us we experience and interact with things via the same channels, that it is all constructed and intertwined with us and so what really is the distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘man-made’?

But the quote also made me think of a line Jonathan Meades once said, that “Rivers and fields no more just happen than do buildings. They’re industrial sites.” (I think said in his ‘Father To the Man‘ episode of the Abroad Again series) The quote struck me when I heard it, because it underlined in an apparent way firstly how I had come to think of ‘industry’ as factories, large buildings churning out smoke. But also how our relationship to land has always been industrious, even before agriculture, and also furthermore how much we have affected and shaped nature to the point that it is rarely, if ever, directly experienced. Maybe the ‘natural’ simply doesn’t exist anymore.

Meades has had his own rallying against the idealisation of the rural for some time (you can read an article from 2002 here, and one from 2010 here), but I think what’s important is the realization that what we understand as Nature is a cultural construct. This also shapes our expectations, whether it’s how we look at a computer screen as opposed to a flower. Over the next few weeks I’ll look in more detail at how each of the artists in TERRA have dealt with these issues, as well as speaking to the curators, looking at our use of materials in the art world, and a few other stop-offs via Smithson, Vonnegut, and a few other guests.

Guided by Voices

2 Nov

I wanted to end my extended and erratic notes on this years’ Jerwood Drawing Prize by looking at Karen Blake’s Walking Classes video in the show. A split screen show on one side a bird’s eye map, the other a blank chalkboard. The time of day ticks by on the bottom left of the screen, joined by various job descriptions and personal entities: street cleaner, postman, mother and children. As each comes up, a line starts to etch it’s way through the street map. Correspondingly, a left hand uses a piece of chalk to follow the trail of lines. The dark trails on the street map fade as they finish, but the ‘actual’ drawing on the right accumulates the marks, becoming an abstract shape in itself.  What interests me is that the right half of the screen- the chalk drawing- is ‘the drawing’, but the piece dissects itself by showing the provenance and build up of its essential parts as well.

Made using GPS following people who walk in the Peckham area, Blake seems to be making an implicitly political statement – the approximate rhyme of the title with ‘working classes,’ the choice of people followed on their routes being more socially inclined, from a leaflet distributor to a traffic warden to a social worker. It maps when these people are active, but also suggests through literally overlapping other potential crossovers. Interestingly, for example, the trail of the artist we follow intersects with the vicar and the community warden.

The piece came out of previous works with GPS, exploring boundaries and concepts of home that then pointed to the independent provenance of the floating, cybernetic line made by the device that existed in a sort of non-space but still existing in time. This led to working with walkers, finding particular, regular routes and exploring the relationship and correlation with their actual route and the satellite-created one. Drawing the routes, re-enacting them with the body, then becomes a way of re-placing them on a human scale.

In Blake’s own words:

The idea of re-drawing the lines as a compilation came initially as a corrective. Surprisingly ( and reassuringly?) satellites don’t track some movements through a space very accurately.  This led me to think about actuality and virtuality and how tangled up they are becoming.   By re-versioning the lines, I could highlight the discrepancies being thrown up by the digital lines.   It also allowed me to realise the interconnections that the walkers couldn’t know.  A hand drawn line becomes more accurate than the virtual one.

The piece originally was projected on the floor, about 1m x 2m, as in the image below, in what might make more of a retinal dance between the different modes of moving, tracing and mapping. The overall perspective of the piece – seen from above, it’s relentless distance and abstraction- could be a paranoid Enemy of the State-like statement, but the small monitor screen showing of it keeps its sketched-out, informal qualities.

Karen Blake, Walking Classes, 2011, digital projection, installation image

What Blake deposits as drawing, here, is something communal – though defined by a particular range of community (‘those who perambulate’). It is an abstract portrait of Peckham, and while what determines the lines is the artist – her walking with these people – the resulting line drawing is more like the notion of a ouija board, the hand being guided by these people. Drawing here, then, is also an almost subconscious event. It could be seen as a Rorschach image of sorts, the subliminal picture the movements of an area create; speaking of the piece, Blake mentions a bit in Paul Auster’s City of Glass (1985), where a private detective follows a man through the streets of New York, the man providing clues by spelling out letters with his trail through the city’s grid. But Walking Classes also provides a vision of drawing where the image itself is irrelevant, subsumed by the process, and where the hand of the artist is an analogue for a digital trace and another, absent, event.

Kristian Fletcher

1 Nov

While the London edition of the Prize has now closed, I wanted to continue to shine a light on a few of the artists int the show as it will continue on in the coming months. Fletcher’s night time Lake (2010) drawing won one of the student awards at the Drawing Prize show, and it was interesting to see him speak at one of the evening events about his work – the piece itself was the sort of genesis of his artistic trajectory, a space that he revisited in Bristol once he had left work as a scaffolder and began studying art. But, as he noted, his work was now involved in more than just drawing and incorporated sculpture.

His work shares across media an examination of the built environment, with a hard realism in pencil, concrete, and metal, exploring the quiet lives of the buildings and structures that surround us.

Kristian Fletcher, untitled, 2011

While one series he’s produced examines the facades of crumbling Cuban cinemas, one image that struck me particularly was of the sculptural work below, a concrete sculpture of a series of stacked birdhouses, each just barely able to fit the smallest bird but once they enter are fortified by the solid material. This is mirrored by a a series of photocopied images that mimic the stacked shape, but depict instead our own, human lodgings, the winding entry ramps and curved barriers of parking lots.

Kristian Fletcher, untitled, 2011

Bethan Lloyd Worthington

26 Oct

Lloyd Worthington’s two drawings in the show depict a saw horse from two different angles. An odd construction, with bits in red, green, some rope dangling from one bit. They would seem diagrammatic, maybe instructional in the way that they sit on the page, asking for some sort of explanation or academic text that they illustrate. The shadow and hardness at certain points give off a realism. But the lightness of the touch, the fade of the bottom plank, seem to set it afloat and give it an uneasiness as to whether it actually exists or not.

Lloyd Worthington’s practice moves between drawing, ceramics and installation, often exploring the minute details and intense textures that are integral to a sense of place. Working among the different media, she approaches them with a shared sense of composition and the placements of objects in space.

The Wild Places, 2010, Pencil, ink, watercolour, gouache, 350 x 350 mm

Incorporating some of her drawings from the moors of Wales onto various ceramic surfaces- plates, kettles, and teacups, she stains these homely items with these fragments of soil, melting snow and dirt. Her ‘Wildeor’ installation looked at the history of eels – their study, capture, and mythology that’s grown around them, presented though a range of contraptions and muted histories, with ceramic eels and their visual synonyms of a pointed white stick.

Eel and spear, 2010, Hand modelled porcelain, high-fired and sharpened

The drawing below is of a fragment from a boat that sat on marsh land for years, before just disappearing, the drawing a study or comparison of the piece and its unknown history. Just as her intricate drawings reveal a sort of naturalism, an almost scientific observation that has been uprooted and isolated to be more poetic, her work seems to sit somewhere as an uneasy pastoral, looking at both the manmade as a natural artefact that deserves drawing, and the moments of the natural that reveal themselves as more human, tender.

Maes, 2011, pencil and watercolour on paper

More images of her work can be seen on her website here.


25 Oct

As those of you in London stroll through the Drawing Prize this final week of the show, or maybe in coming months in Cardiff or Devon, you might notice a tendency of few works that play on the long relationship between drawing and books. Somewhere between the sketchbook, book illustrations (from the medical to the fantastical), comic books, and newspaper cartoons is drawing’s relationship, or reliance, on not just the page – what James Elkins in his exchanges with Berger called ‘the invaluable record of the encounter of a moving, thinking hand with the mesmerizing space of potential forms that is simply called ‘a blank sheet of paper’- but a collection of pages. The book is a physical narrative, that is more than just the pulped wood surface of the blank page and it’s pent-up potential released/realised/created in the act of drawing, but a conglomeration of those moments.

This is most apparent in the small, fanned out concertina of pages of Lottie Jackson-Eeles‘s  Imagery Imaginary – Volume 1 (2010), a sort of abstracted landscape of experiences and sights of the cities, fragmented moments pieced back together as ridges of colliding coloured shapes, water towers, windows and fans. It is a diary of sorts, maybe some form of exquisite corpse where each fold might not necessarily lead to the next moment but somehow they still connect. It doesn’t flow; it juts and spikes, the erupting moments and the zig zag of the page edges themselves we have to follow and animate ourselves.

Lottie Jackson-Eeles, Imagery Imaginary, Vol 1 (detail), 2010, pen and ink on concertina sketchbook

The expanded book is also bursting out of Iain Andrews‘s Patterns of Faerie Tales (2010), where an aged tome has a been cut into to house a series of illustrated sheets. Each is a fragment of a land inhabited with floating fish, odd creature and characters that still we recognize from the Brother’s Grimm, Lewis Carroll and Tolkein. We can shuffle through the pages, and no matter how fanciful it’s still a familiar world.

Perhaps on the flip side of that same coin is Nicki Rolls‘s Sketch (2011)- a familiar world, but here a mundane one, in a projected street scene that sits on an opened sketch book, its pages lined but empty. We see a car pass, a man walking up the street, then as he reaches the edge of the frame…he simply keeps walking. Strolling along the fanned edges of the book, bobbing in and out of the half-lit pages, then onto the blank white light hitting the wall and finally out of sight. Here, Rolls uses the blank page to, as she says, ‘draw with light;’ the sketch book a place of some sort of gleeful impossibility, though instead of being told through fantasy illustration it’s with the more technological idiom of animated digital video.

A gutted hardcover book is the basis for Sally Taylor‘s Mouth Full of Triangles 4 (2011), and it would seem drawing open mouths on dismembered parts of old publications is part of Taylor’s current run, with another example from the same series below. The open cover and the mouth make a visual rhyme, the mouth’s silence and abstracted sound of coloured triangles a skewed mirroring of the symbology of letters and language that the book spews forth. The ‘yelling’ book seems playful, obnoxious, impulsive.

Sally Taylor, Mouth with Triangles 'aaa' 4, 2011

Amikam Toren‘s Last Drawing (2010) does provide a full stop of sorts – the backing cardboard for a spiral bound notebook on it’s own, the paper itself finally gone. The backbone of the metal binding turns upwards, winding and spiraling up, making its own shadow drawing. Despite some of the found and layered work in the show, this piece is the most loudly a drawing without drawing, a gesture that is light and immediate, funny and sketchy and temporary. It relies only on the material, on the leftovers that come after drawing, to make any sort of movement, a movement that will remain permanently unfinished.

The use of the book could be seen as a sort of nostalgic move, a reference to the analogue, to the ‘dying media’ of print – but the books here are cast aside, torn out, ripped open and left behind. It seems part of a move to recognize the physical bearer for drawing, to call on its media to come forward, which is both a love letter and assassination. It sings of the entire history of the book, of illustration, and our own nostalgia-tinted moments of seeing the glimpses into the worlds of stories we were read as children. It also recognizes drawing’s own reliance on the analogue, its own threat and risk of being branded ‘dying’. But it also sets drawing apart from the book, maybe cockily declares it separate, beyond, bigger, that drawing can swallow and digest the book, but never vice versa.

Thomas Gosebruch

21 Oct

Gosebruch’s untitled contribution to the show is a medium-sized work on paper, what looks like it could be some form of still life, an abstracted depiction of two flowers. It’s almost like a shadow, the forms in a hazy sort of sepia-tinted brown. A few quick twirls of pencil line underscore the floral swirls at the head of the stalks, and it looks like it could almost be the sketch towards a painting, a preparation for a more detailed canvas work. But the paper is stained with oil, giving it a slight transparency and also smudging the pigment, making the paper more present and giving the work its own spread and feel that couldn’t be achieved on another format. A quick gesture, then, becomes laden and slowed to the point of being still on paper. In the Jerwood show, this piece stands out as a particular approach, adding a painterly weight to the use of drawing as a momentary and felt hand movement.

Gosebruch’s practice goes between these light, expressive drawings with pencil, ink and oil, to sculptures made with extruded lines of clay, what he considers drawings in 3D.

Thomas Gosebruch, No 3, 2011 oil pigment pencil on paper, 59.8 x 47.5 cm

In the drawings, the calmness belies the tension of the layered moments between the media, separate but almost simultaneous gestures that dance around each other. The hard pencil lines have their own hard edges that cut and contrast with the coloured stains. Gosebruch trained as a painter, and previous drawings used stencils to guide pastels on the paper.  His sculptures echo those stencils, pushed now into the real world as rough ceramic jigsaws, at points looking like a deconstructed cello or morphed animal shape.

Thomas Gosebruch, Pavement, 2011, unglazed stoneware, 9.5 x 59.5 x 22.5 cm

Like his drawings, there is a haunted sense to the forms, hovering somewhere between figuration and abstraction, between “control, the desperate lack of it, or degrees of freedom from it.”  Further images of his work can be found on his website.

Thomas Gosebruch, No 2, 2010, unglazed stoneware, 12.4 x 10.5 x 10.3 cm